Three years ago, Holly Hooper and sister Heather Menacof had saved enough money to invest in new windows for the lower part of their popular outfitter store in Sylva, Blackrock Outdoor Company.
Then the economy tanked. The sisters were forced to put the money back into the business. They scrimped and saved once more, however, and are moving forward again with dressing up the part of the building that faces Mill Street, better known as back street.
Hooper hopes Black Rock’s individual attempts to aid this part of the downtown gets a significant boost in the form of a state grant being submitted by the Downtown Sylva Association. The grant application is due by Feb. 10. Meetings are being held, ideas have been solicited, and a number of Sylva businesses have expressed keen interest in participating in a general cleanup and refashioning of back street.
After years of neglect, back street actually has received some attention fairly recently in the form of landscaping and upkeep. Currently, there are few vacancies along the street, and the businesses located there generally seem to be holding their own.
But Julie Sylvester, head of the Downtown Sylva Association, decided more could be done. About 40 people turned out for a meeting a few months ago about fixing up back street.
The Downtown Sylva Association is a membership organization dedicated to bettering the business environment in downtown Sylva. It is tasked with helping businesses thrive and prosper.
“We had a good mix of people all wanting to see this project move forward,” Sylvester said.
Grant money is available through the state’s Main Street program. The grants are intended to provide direct financial benefit to towns, retain and create jobs and spur private investment.
Sylvester said an initial phase for back street renovation includes painting, pressure washing, disguising unsightly but necessary items using paint or other means of hiding them (air conditioning units, for example).
“The idea is we try to do something that will make a big difference without a lot of money,” Sylvester said.
Hooper said she hopes to see street lighting installed. And awnings, she added, to protect customers from rain. Eventually, Black Rock would like to open an entrance into the store on back street instead of just having one on Main Street.
That would mean hiring an additional employee, however, and the store needs to see more traffic and business via back street before doing that, Hooper said.